‘The Invaders’ and flying saucers still give me the creeps

creen grab photo that shows David Vincent being led to a flying saucer UFO that has landed in the back yard of a California mission revival home

Michael Rennie leads the way as his alien henchmen escort David Vincent toward a flying saucer that has landed in the backyard of a mission revival home.

When I was a kid, I loved the outer-space adventures of the original “Star Trek” series, which I found entertaining and thought-provoking. But another series at that time managed to scare the living bejeezus out of me — and still does a great job of inducing an entertaining sense of unease.

That program is “The Invaders,” introduced each week with an ominous opening sequence:

The Invaders: Alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: The Earth. Their purpose: To make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him it began one lost night on a lonely country road looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed, deserted diner and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow, he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.

The show’s two seasons are available on DVD as well as free on YouTube. Give the series a new look-see and I’m sure you’ll come away with a new appreciation of “The Invaders.” Unlike a lot of series from that era, it sure holds up. The few effects are done well and the attention paid to lighting, music and art direction rivals that of many contemporary theatrical films.

And most of the show’s haircuts and fashions are back in style.

Roy Thinnes as UFO investigator David Vincent in 1967 and today

Roy Thinnes in 1967 and today.

Cloned from Quinn Martin Productions’ “The Fugitive,” this show follows “architect David Vincent” — played by 29-year-old Roy Thinnes — that’s him then and now, at right. Although he later gain allies in the second season, Vincent initially leads one-man campaign to expose the vanguard of an alien invasion. The aliens themselves are among the reasons why the series proved so frightening to people. They’re only shown in their human forms, which often aren’t 100 percent perfect, and can be identified usually — but not always — by a misshapen pinkie finger.

To maintain their human shape, the invaders must periodically step into regeneration tubes. Only occasionally, a human gets to see one in its actual native form, and is almost driven to the point of madness.

And although within the context of the series these humans see the invaders, viewers never do. We see only the humans’ terrified reaction to these aliens, which makes their presumed appearance all the more terrifying.

Almost as terrifying are the ways in which the invaders infiltrate human society. They’re small-town sheriffs, government officials, leading scientists — and in one notable episode even a stripper played by Suzanne Pleshette. It’s a rich vein of paranoia later mined to similarly chilling effect in “The X-Files.”

Although it’s a stretch to believe these invaders are here from “another galaxy,” their resources are definitely being stretched to near the breaking point. Their most effective weapons are treachery, brainwashing with a spinning crystal thingie — and a nasty little disk that when pressed to a human’s neck induces death by cerebral hemorrhage.

One of the invaders burns up after being shot by David Vincent

One of the invaders burns up after being shot by David Vincent.

But the biggest problem facing David Vincent is that there’s just about no way for him to prove that the invaders are here because when one is injured or shot, they just about always go up in a blaze of spontaneous combustion.

All of the episodes in the DVD set have been transferred in crisp color and with a rich soundtrack that allows Dominic Frontiere’s chilling musical score to properly frist your spine. Roy Thinnes, now in his 70s, introduces each episode and is also featured in a supplemental interview in which we learn that some of the show’s crew thought UFOs were no laughing matter.

Series creator Larry Cohen narrates much of “The Innocent,” which, although he didn’t write it, is his favorite episode. Cohen offers up some interesting stories, but his narrative tends to wander. And he also gripes way too much about how his “Created by Larry Cohen” credit is at the end of each episode rather than at the beginning. Larry: If it’s any consolation, I noticed and remembered it. So much so that when I saw “It’s Alive,” “Q” and “The Stuff” years later, I thought wow, this is by the guy who created “The Invaders”!

Genre fans will especially enjoy “The Innocent,” which was originally telecast March 14, 1967. It’s not hard to see why Cohen counts this episode among the best. In it, Vincent is abducted and taken aboard a flying saucer by one of the invaders’ leaders — played by Michael Rennie, famed for his portrayal of Klaatu in the seminal saucer movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

This episode illustrates how “The Invaders” sparingly used special effects to such advantage. Vincent is driven to a mission revival ranch house and taken to see Rennie — and then he’s escorted into the backyard where he’s escorted into the saucer.

The invaders try to repair one of their UFO flying saucers that has crash-landed in the Desert Southwest

The invaders try to repair one of their saucers that has crash-landed in the Desert Southwest.

The saucer design itself no doubt tapped into its own wave of paranoia. Obviously inspired by the spacecraft reported by 1950s “contactee” George Adamski, it was in a way the series co-star, a character that all of us hoped to see more than we did.

Perhaps the saucer’s best appearance is in “The Mutant,” which finds David Vincent tracking down reports of a crashed saucer in the Desert Southwest. The scene in which he stumbles upon aliens repairing their saucer does a great job of laying the early groundwork for vectoring the Roswell legend.

(A version of this post previously appeared in the now-defunct “ChicagoScope” podcast.)

Collins Courier Bag perfect for 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Brenthaven's Collins Courier Bag is the perfect carryall for your 12.9-inch iPad Pro. (Photo courtesy Brenthaven)

Brenthaven’s Collins Limited Edition Courier provides the perfect bag — and the perfect protection– for your 12.9-inch iPad Pro. (Photo courtesy Brenthaven)

Like many of you, I’m always in search of the perfect bag for my personal electronics — and with Brenthaven’s Collins Courier Bag, I’ve struck the motherlode.

The quest is not an easy one.

Some bags are too big, some bags are too small. Some are shabbily constructed from cheap synthetics, while others are beyond reach financially and made of fine, fine leathers.


I bought the Brenthaven Collins Limited Edition Courier Bag because I needed a compact, easy-to-carry bag for my new iPad Pro and a few accessories. I really like this bag. Unlike my other bags that cajole me into packing a lot of stuff I seldom need, the Collins keeps it high-tech and intimate.


    12.9-inch iPad Pro.

    iPhone 6s Plus.

    Apple Pencil with adapter and extra point.

    29W iPad Pro charger and cable.

    12W iPhone/iPad charger and cable.

    Cable for Apple Watch.

    myCharge Hub 9000 portable charger.

    Three ballpoint pens.

    Six Blackwing 602 pencils.

    Two Palomino Golden Bear pencils.

    Kum longpoint, two-hole pencil sharpener.

    Two Field Notes memo books.


    A 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard and silicone case attached fits snugly into the laptop pocket.

    An iPhone 6s Plus with Apple leather case fits snugly into the accessory pouch in the secondary zippered pocket.

    The bag is comfortable to carry, either on shoulder or slung across torso.

    Relatively small capacity restricts you to essentials, reducing weight.

    Gear is protected by reassuring walls of soft, textured material.

    Brenthaven’s HDF™ feature cushions electronics if bag is dropped.

    Nonzippered back pocket closes with magnet; useful for holding tickets or other documents.

    Bag is manufactured from high-quality materials; the strap feels like it’s the same kind used in seat belts.


    The small outer zippered pocket is of limited use to me. About my only use for it is to store earbuds.

    Adapter wall warts can make pockets lumpy; distribute accordingly.



Marilyn Monroe in ‘River of No Return’

Marilyn Monroe and Tommy Rettig on a raft in "River of No Return"

Tommy Rettig and Marilyn Monroe in Otto Preminger’s 1954 CinemaScope western “River of No Return.” (Image copyright © Twentieth Century Fox)

I watched Marilyn Monroe’s “River of No Return” for the first time tonight. Aside from a few awful rear projection whitewater-rafting composites, this 1954 classic is pretty enjoyable.

“River of No Return” showcases Marilyn Monroe’s acting and singing talents. A friend of mine says that she’s delightfully wholesome in this movie — and he’s right.

The other stars — Robert Mitchum, Rory Calhoun and Tommy Rettig — also handle their roles well.


“River of No Return” tells a well-worn tale of a father (Robert Mitchum) with a past struggling to win the trust and affection of an estranged son (Rettig) and the saloon chanteuse (Marilyn Monroe) who comes to love him. Along the way, the trio battles whitewater rapids, desperate miners and Monroe’s gambler boyfriend (Rory Calhoun).


Monroe’s voice never had an especially great range, but she could definitely hold a tune and convey a breadth of emotions.

The only real criticism here is that although Monroe’s singing is quite capable, a couple of the numbers seem more suited to the mid-20th century than the mid-1870s. She does seem to enjoy her part, and even has fun indulging in some typical saloon girl schtick. One of the best has Monroe playfully abusing gawking customers while belting out tunes in a mining camp saloon. Funniest line occurs when she asks a leering guy: “Lookin’ for nuggets?”

Musical tropes gallop across the screen several times as archetypal “Indian music” signals the arrival of war parties.


The technology of the day is well-represented, as well. Shot mostly on location in Banff and Jasper national parks, the magnificent scenery showcases this early CinemaScope picture’s wider 2.55:1 aspect ratio. Stereophonic sound also is used to add drama and spectacle.

“River of No Return” is a classic circular plot. The finale is extremely satisfying, but I doubt whether — just as the ending in “The Cowboys” — it would be tolerated in a contemporary movie.

King Jim Pomera DM100 review

Photo of King Jim Pomera DM100 note taker and word processor.

The King Jim Pomera DM100 is a great addition to anybody’s writing arsenal.

I have a new weapon in my battle to complete my novel: the King Jim Pomera DM100. I paid about $200 for this nifty device on Amazon.com.

As I continue slogging along toward completing my first novel destined for Kindle Direct Publishing, I’ve come to rely on distraction-free tools like this while writing.

“Distraction free” means a device which, unlike a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, only does word processing. It’s free of distraction because you can’t goof off and surf the Web, dither around on social media, watch videos or listen to music.

For a few months, I’d been devoted to the AlphaSmart Neo, but didn’t want to face the prospect of opening the device when the data battery needs to be replaced.

My search for a newer-generation device to replace my Neo led to a dedicated note-taking and word-processing machine known as the King Jim Pomera DM100. It’s made in Japan for that country’s domestic market, but I bought it

I’m liking the King Jim Pomera DM100 a lot so far. I was looking for an alternative to my AlphaSmart Neo and the DM100 is proving to be a fine fit.

1.The Pomera DM100 is so light, I never think twice about bringing it along.

2. It fits in any bag I own.

3. One day when I didn’t want to bring a bag to work, the DM100 fit comfortably in a coat pocket.

4. When inspiration strikes, I just open the DM100 and it powers up within a couple of seconds.

5. For the past three weeks, I’ve used the device for at least two hours a day and the battery indicator still shows a full charge on two Duracells.

6. It’s easy to transfer files to my Mac using the provided USB cable.

7. It’s easy to transfer files to my iPhone using a FlashAir Wi-Fi card.

8. It’s easy to use the DM100 as keyboard to enter text into an iOS device. (See ODDITIES, below.)

9. It’s supercool to transfer files using QR code. The DM100 generates one (or more) QR codes for files and displays them on its monochrome screen. You then use a QR reader app to copy the files. Because there’s a limit on how many characters can fit into a single QR code, the DM100 will generate several codes. I can’t see using this feature except in an emergency. People are impressed with this capability when I demonstrate it, however. Their reaction is akin to the delight in watching a Polaroid instant photo develop.

10. The keyboard is comfortable, but feels “different” enough that my mind knows I’m in “writing mode.” I get this same feeling with my AlphaSmart Neo.

1. Although most of the DM100 operations are fairly intuitive, the user manual is in Japanese.

2. While it’s easy to replace the two AA batteries and the flat, data cell, the battery compartment lock on my unit is difficult to operate — and I fear breaking it, since the DM100 won’t power on unless the compartment is locked.

3. To operate the DM100 in English, you make a menu selection that becomes default. However, every time you power up the device you must also press Caps Lock to toggle the keyboard to English. Because Caps Lock is right above the lefthand Shift key, it’s easy to accidentally touch it and switch back into Japanese. I have a similar problem on the Neo, where I often hit the On-Off button.

4. The lefthand Shift key feels different from all the other keys. Because you need to strike the Shift key on its lower portion, it’s possible this is by design to reduce the chance of accidentally hitting Caps Lock and toggling languages.

1. There are special-function buttons on either side of the 4:3 monochrome screen. The ones on the left are for Bluetooth, QR code and Calendar.

2. The function of the three buttons on the right is a complete mystery to me.

3. Some of the punctuation keys differ from a standard American computer QWERTY keyboard. Quotation mark is uppercase on numeral 2; apostrophe is uppercase on numeral 7; semicolon and colon are lowercase on the keys to the right of L, respectively.

4. If you pair the DM100 to an iPhone or iPad for use as a keyboard, it adopts American mapping — which differs from the DM100 keyboard in punctuation locations.

1. FlashAir Wi-Fi SD card. I’m not sure how often I’ll need to use it, but it’s good to have — both for transferring files and extra storage, if necessary.

2. Official Pomera zippered case. Appears to be made of the same Neoprene-type material as the Neo case. I ordered mine through Amazon from Japan Brand HGC. Someone at this company really made my day because packed in with the case was a tiny, elegant origami crane. This wonderful token of appreciation now rides in my planner as a lucky charm.

1. The King Jim Pomera DM100 packaging is simple and elegant.

2. I ordered my unit through Amazon — and shipped from Japan. There apparently was something wrong with the address label attached to my DM100 shipping box before it left Japan. The U.S. Postal Service couldn’t determine my address, so the box was sent to a USPS facility outside Atlanta where the box was opened. USPS found my actual address on the invoice inside, generated a new label, resealed the box and sent the package on to me in Chicago. This only added a couple of days.

An author’s review of the DM100. (Excellent links included.)

Video review from ガジェット通信(GETNEWSJP)

I’m not sure about ‘Bone Tomahawk’


Bone Tomahawk” is intriguing.

Any western with Kurt Russell is bound to be a good one, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able sit through a cannibal version of “The Searchers.” This diversion into weird west territory might be too weird for me.

I do really like the one-sheet poster designed by Brandon Schaefer. You can watch the trailer here (scroll).